With a vote on a bill to federally legalize marijuana set for House floor consideration this week, lawmakers on Thursday released a report on the legislation that effectively previews the partisan debate to come, with the majority and minority leaders of a key committee making their arguments for and against the reform.
The 483-page report prepared by the House Judiciary Committee provides an extensive overview of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which is sponsored by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
Leadership announced late last week that the bill to end federal prohibition would be taken up on the floor for the second time in congressional history. It passed the House in 2020 but saw no action in the Senate. Then, in September, it again cleared the sponsor’s panel for the current session.
Before heading to the floor, there will be a House Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday, where members will decide whether any proposed amendments can be made in order. The hearing was initially scheduled for Monday but was pushed back two days over the weekend for unknown reasons.
“Enforcement of marijuana laws has been a key driver of mass criminalization in the United States,” the new report’s background and need for legislation section states. “The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through significant racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system.”
It further describes the collateral consequences of cannabis arrests and convictions, including the possible loss of opportunities for employment, voting rights, housing, education, government assistance and more, saying that “these exclusions create an often-permanent second-class status for millions of Americans.”
“Like drug war enforcement itself, these consequences fall disproportionately on people of color,” it says. “For non-citizens, a conviction can trigger deportation, sometimes with almost no possibility of discretionary relief.”
“Today, overcriminalized communities continue to suffer the consequences of failed drug policies, even in states that have legalized marijuana, where arrests have dropped for marijuana crimes. Public support for making marijuana legal has increased over the past two decades. The resulting trend in state-level legalization of marijuana has placed states in apparent conflict with federal law and, as a result, the Justice Department has struggled with how to continue to uphold federal law in this context.”
The report also touches on other unique challenges that state-legal marijuana industries face under the status quo of federal prohibition, including barriers to accessing financial services through traditional banking services which have resulted in public safety issues for cannabis businesses that have become targets of crime because many operate on a largely cash-only basis.